COVID ruined screen time rules and now my kid is a device addict

You know things go wrong when it takes a totalitarian surveillance state with an authoritarian dictatorship to control screen time.

“China has banned people under 18 from playing video games for more than three hours a week,” Reuters reported in August, “a strict social intervention it said was needed to end a growing addiction to what she once described as “spiritual opium”.

These restrictions are not new. In 2019, China imposed a curfew on phone use from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. – and here’s the kicker: when kids tried to bypass it (mostly using their parents’ devices), China has started using facial recognition technology to keep these kids online. They even have something called the “Midnight Patrol”.

Xi Jinping, go ahead my daughter!

But Xi is also smart.

In the heyday of British Columbia (pre-Corona), I wrote a silly column about the screen time rules my friends had managed to make in their high-level household. It was a success. Parents everywhere have gathered, emailing me with gratitude and reframe expectations. The parents whose rules I quoted patted each other on the back and everything was fine.

How are these high level parents doing today?

“Let’s just say I’m making a new set,” one of them told me.

Like everything, COVID-19 screwed it up. During the pandemic, kids relied on devices for everything – social interactions, school, and just old reason – not to mention their parents. There was no escape – and now we have a real addiction going on. As I go, I literally have to tear the phone out of Selma’s hands. It’s like his new blanket.

“Tears, Breakdowns: Horror Show,” the top parents told me (which made me a little happy, I admit).

In addition, a recent study showed that the negative effects are twice as severe for girls as for boys. Because boys tend to play games on their screens, their level of engagement is higher. Girls tend to sit for hours and scroll through TikTok, social media, and other ugly things and then feel bad about themselves. Girls love mine.

Here are the facts as we know them:

On Monday, Selma is seen at around 9:18 p.m. putting away her pillows, as if to suggest the impending bedtime in accordance with our 8 p.m. onscreen curfew and 10 p.m. curfew.

At 9:19 pm, I am in a form of coma, confident that all is well with my servants. My sleep is well deserved, as it follows a screaming match about a man named WigoFellas, a TikTok star who likes to put a leaf blower in her mom’s mouth (while she sleeps).

At 6:15 am Tuesday, I try to wake Selma up.

At 6:18 am, I try to wake Selma up.

At 6:22 am, I shout at Selma.

At 6:23 am, Selma yells at me.

At 6:33 am, Selma and I are yelling at each other.

At 6:58 am, I take 13-year-old Louie to the bus stop while he looks at his phone.

From 7:15 am to 7:30 am I drive Selma to school while she is looking at her phone.

From 3:45 p.m. to 5 p.m. Selma and I go to our nutritionist, who tells us that Selma’s “cell health” is still in decline. It’s strange, considering I had emptied the house of sugar, soda, and all the questionable consumables. In addition, Selma had started her sports and was generally in good health.

“How do you sleep? Asked the nutritionist.

Selma says she sleeps well but looks weird.

Coming home around 5:15 pm, I ask Selma when she fell asleep last night. She tells me 10 p.m. but still looks weird. I ask her if she was on the phone and she says no. I tell her I can check all of this by looking at her phone (which I’m not sure I can), and she starts to cry. After 20 minutes of cross-examination, it turns out Selma was on the phone until 2 a.m. – by then all hell breaks loose.

I’ll spare you the step-by-step horror show that followed, but Selma’s phone is under severe lockdown for the foreseeable future (the blurring of the timing adds an extra sting).

But here’s the problem: Ever since her phone was taken, Selma has been a much happier child.

It’s always like this: every time we put her phone on pause, Selma emerges like a primordial fog. It takes about a day, but once the shock is over Selma smiles more, engages in conversation, laughs – she sort of reappears as… herself.

And it horrifies me every time. It’s like: here I am, a parent fully aware that this device is ruining my child, and yet I am completely unable to remove it.

“They’re going to need to know how to use this stuff,” my husband Ian tells me, with that “relax, calm down” look. “It’s their future.

Our former au pair, who just opened a studio in TriBeCa and has 31,000 Instagram followers, recently told us: “It’s great, but looking back, I should have gone to school for iPhone. because that’s really how I make a living.

Louie learned to edit videos, music, and other stuff that I don’t understand, and Selma understood how TikTok each major development in her pre-teen life.

And yes, there are restrictions, but they are difficult to impose. I recently found out that Selma had disarmed my “downtime” configurations, which meant I had to complete an online tutorial on how to reconfigure everything, as well as add time to the timeout on the machine. phone currently in progress. Even China has had issues with this one, and the resulting facial recognition technology is high on my to-do list. A friend of mine bought a safe and now locks the Xbox cable, iPad, and phones in it daily. A safe.

“Look,” a child psychologist told me. “Basically, you’re dealing with heroin addicts. And parents have this yo-yo thing: they panic, the devices go missing, time goes by, things come back to where they were and then the cycle starts all over again.

Flip phones? No phones? Social isolation? Buy a safe? Moving to China?

Don’t ask me, but stay tuned for the revised High Level Parenting Rules. Maybe they can save us.

Claire Tisne Haft is a former director of publishing and film, raising her family in Greenwich while working freelance on books and films. She can be reached through her website at

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